U.S. Air Forces Southern/12th Air Force (AFSOUTH), the air force component of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), held a new edition of the Airmen-to-Airmen Talks at the Chilean Air Force (FACh) headquarters in Santiago.
During the talks, service members discussed the events held during fiscal year 2022 and made progress on security cooperation plans for the next three years. The talks resumed the strategic pause agreed upon during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is the seventh bilateral staff talks between our countries. Although we haven’t used the staff talks structure for very long, the benefits of it are very tangible,” Dave Delmonaco, U.S. Air Force (USAF) director of Plans, Requirements, and Programs told Diálogo on December 1. “Seven years is not a long time compared to the long history of cooperation between our air forces.”
The goal of the Talks, held November 8-10, is to coordinate activities, programs, and subprograms in experience sharing and professional development, humanitarian assistance, air and ground operations, gender equity, space domain, aircraft maintenance, and health and medical operational issues, among others. The cycle is designed as a deep dive into AFSOUTH and State Partnership Program (SPP) events, in conjunction with the FACh.
“Bilateral discussion, planning, and development of operations, activities, and investments, which mutually benefit both of us are powerful cooperation tools,” Delmonaco said. “Since the establishment of the first U.S. air mission in Chile in 1941, our partnership has grown by leaps and bounds to get us where we are today.”
Brigadier General Máximo Venegas, FACh director of operations, highlighted the importance of bilateral work with USAF, as it allows for progress to be made in interoperability between the air forces of both countries.
Senior officers from the Weapons Systems Engineering and Support Division, the Aerospace Medicine Center, and the Operations Directorate, among other units, represented Chile. The U.S. delegation was led by Delmonaco and included members of USAF’s Personnel, Intelligence, Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Telecommunications and Information Technology areas.
The meeting addressed the FACh’s recent acquisition of three Boeing E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) and the Link-16 military tactical data link network used by NATO, among other topics. In addition, initiatives such as Women, Peace, and Security; noncommissioned officers’ professionalization and development; medical exchanges; and the inclusion of an SPP event to support the indigenous population on Easter Island, Chile, were carried out, Delmonaco said.
“Humanitarian assistance was one of the focuses of the Airmen-to-Airmen Talks, especially with respect to primary and emergency care capabilities that the FACh has developed in recent years,” FACh Colonel Alejandro Arévalo, deputy director of the Directorate of Operations’ Programming and Control, told Diálogo. “We talked about the transfer of patients during the COVID-19 period to relieve the public health system […]. These were [unprecedented] operations, with transfers in C-130 aircraft and Black Hawk helicopters. In many cases they lasted more than 24 hours, requiring intense aeronautical and logistics coordination.”
Testimony to the good relations between the United States and Chile was the November 17 visit of Major General Evan L. Pettus, AFSOUTH commander, to FACh headquarters in Santiago, where he was received by his Chilean counterpart, FACh General Hugo Rodríguez González.
Both leaders discussed interinstitutional collaboration in the exchange of experience, education, training, operational issues, and exercises, among others. Additionally, Maj. Gen. Pettus attended a FACh exhibition, where he was able to learn about the history, mission, organization, and service to the country of the Chilean institution.
The next Airmen-to-Airmen Talks will be held in Tucson, Arizona, in 2023 on a date to be determined, following the tradition of holding them alternately in Chile and the United States.